Kosovo Civil Society, Media, Form Coalition Against Disinformation

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BIRN Kosovo director hails formation of new coalition as a kind of vaccine against “the virus of disinformation” eroding Kosovo society.

BIRN Kosovo and six other Kosovo-based NGOs and media organisations have formed the Kosovo Coalition Against Disinformation.

“The coalition aims to advocate for and support awareness raising and capacity building in Kosovo society in order to face the challenges of disinformation and build a society in which accurate, full, and timely information is the foundation of information,” their joint statement read.

The organisations participating in the coalition alongside BIRN are the NGOs Democracy Plus, Democracy for Development and Roma in Action, the media outlet Internews Kosova and the Serbian-language media outlets KoSSev and Gracanica Online.

BIRN Kosovo director Jeta Xharra said the coalition’s goal is to “function as a vaccine against the disinformation virus and the untrue propaganda that is shared very quickly in many information channels that exist today, including social media networks”.

Xharra added: “We decided to become strategic and create alliances with other civil society and media organisations which have worked in this field. We are started today with seven members but we aim to include new members in future.”

She explained that the members have worked together to create the coalition’s principles in the war against disinformation in order to “to make this alliance functional in all the territory of Kosovo including the many languages of Kosovo, not only the language of the majority”.

The ambassador of Switzerland to Kosovo, Thomas Kolly, said the media have an obligation to offer the truth to news consumers.

“Everyone has the right to be told the truth, the media has an obligation to tell us this. We as consumers are on the other side. This coalition is a wonderful concept,” he said.

Alongside the two main ethnic communities of Albanians and Serbs, Kosovo’s constitution recognises Romani, Egyptian, Ashkali, and Turkish communities. Serbian and Albanian are official languages, but in certain towns Romani and Turkish are also widely spoken.

“If those who distribute disinformation are organised, we, on the other hand, must become organised and strategic to stop disinformation, and this is not done alone but together around good information,” Xharra said.

Tatjana Lazarevic, from the KoSSev portal, said she expected the coalition to aid justice, impartiality and accuracy.

“My expectation is to share together the values of the Declaration; they are words for me, which means, words with meaning; I expect us to practice our profession, not to serve politics. I expect us to spread justice, impartiality, accuracy; to increase the potential of our professional community and media literacy, but also the expectations and power of our public,” she said.

The Kosovo Coalition on Disinformation intends to become a platform of civil society and media organizations “that defend freedom of expression, pluralism of thought and free flow of information”, fighting disinformation not only via reporting but also in the field of education and science.

During the announcement ceremony, the coalition brought together various representatives from embassies, prominent media institutions, journalists and NGOs.

The project is supported by the Swiss embassy.